Mekong River flow and hydrological extremes under climate change

P.L. Hoang*, P. Lauri, M. Kummu, J. Koponen, M.T.H. van Vliet, I. Supit, R. Leemans, P. Kabat, F. Ludwig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

164 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Climate change poses critical threats to water related safety and sustainability in the Mekong River basin. Hydrological impact signals derived from CMIP3 climate change scenarios, however, are highly uncertain and largely ignore hydrological extremes. This paper provides one of the first hydrological impact assessments using the most recent CMIP5 climate change scenarios. Furthermore, we model and analyse changes in river flow regimes and hydrological extremes (i.e. high flow and low flow conditions). Similar to earlier CMIP3-based assessments, the hydrological cycle also intensifies in the CMIP5 climate change scenarios. The scenarios ensemble mean shows increases in both seasonal and annual river discharges (annual change between +5 and +16 %, depending on location). Despite the overall increasing trend, the individual scenarios show differences in the magnitude of discharge changes and, to a lesser extent, contrasting directional changes. We further found that extremely high flow events increase in both magnitude and frequency. Extremely low flows, on the other hand, are projected to occur less often under climate change. Higher low flows can help reducing dry season water shortage and controlling salinization in the downstream Mekong Delta. However, higher and more frequent peak discharges will exacerbate flood risk in the basin. The implications of climate change induced hydrological changes are critical and thus require special attention in climate change adaptation and disaster-risk reduction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3027–3041
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Volume20
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2016

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